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Edwards to provide inside look at NHL scout life

by Mike G. Morreale
REGINA, Sask. -- There is a saying that rain, sleet or heavy snow never will keep an NHL scout from fulfilling his obligations.

For the crew at NHL Central Scouting, that's certainly the case.

"We're getting paid to watch hockey. Does it get any better?" NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told

In a span of 72 hours beginning Wednesday in Regina, Sask., will take the journey alongside Edwards on a trip throughout Western Canada not only to view a few of the top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft, but gain exclusive access to "Life as a Scout."

With Edwards at the wheel, the trek will take a writer and videographer through Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Lethbridge.

"It's tough because you're watching 17- and 18-year-old guys and deciding what they'll be like in four or five years. There have been some obvious ones over the years, like (Sidney) Crosby and (Steven) Stamkos … anybody can really pick those kinds of guys. But I'm looking for the guys after those types of players."
-- NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards

"Just make sure you bring a parka and gloves because it's going to get cold," Edwards said.

The first leg of the tour will have the trio in Regina and Moose Jaw to witness the final two games of the 2011 Subway Super Series that features all-stars from the Western Hockey League against Team Russia in what traditionally has become a bit of a preview for the annual World Junior Championship.

While a majority of the players competing in the games already will have been drafted, there are a few 2012 draft-eligible players Edwards will be keeping close tabs on in attempt to make the proper evaluations in April. On Wednesday, it's forward Colton Sissons of the Kelowna Rockets and defensemen Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Mathew Dumba of Red Deer Rebels. On Thursday, Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ryan Pulock, regarded as one of the top 2013 draft-eligible players, will earn some valuable experience.

Team WHL will be coached by Don Hay, who also will be behind the bench for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, which will be held in Edmonton and Calgary beginning Dec. 26.

"It's tough because you're watching 17- and 18-year-old guys and deciding what they'll be like in four or five years," Edwards said. "There have been some obvious ones over the years, like (Sidney) Crosby and (Steven) Stamkos … anybody can really pick those kinds of guys. But I'm looking for the guys after those types of players.


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"Really, I've learned that you're more wrong than right in the business. So the trick is to be wrong the least amount of times as you can be."

Edwards, 41, started as a hockey official in the Canadian Tier 2 leagues before moving on to the Ontario Hockey League. His experience eventually landed him a job in the officiating department for the NHL 22 years ago. There, he began shooting videos of prospects and amateur referees before having a sit-down with veteran officials John D'Amico and Wally Harris, using the video as a training tool.

He eventually was offered a position in scouting 12 years ago.

From Moose Jaw, the gang will make a two-hour drive west into Swift Current for a brief stay before heading four more hours into Lethbridge on Friday. There, Edwards plans to chart the WHL game between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Red Deer Rebels.

"I feel this trip will give fans an insight into what exactly scouts have to go through," Edwards said. "I don't know if people are aware of what scouts do when it comes to the daily 3-4 hour drive between games and through snowstorms … what we've gone through to get to a game. I realize everyone fights through traffic to get to work in the morning, but I still remember a three-hour drive I took from Swift Current to Medicine Hat in minus-35 degree weather. There's absolutely nothing on the road, which is entirely straight with the exception of a curve here and there. If you hit a ditch and go off the road, it might take a while before someone might ever get to you."

Fortunately for Edwards, the late E.J. McGuire, the former director of NHL Central Scouting who passed away last April, chipped in to purchase a mobile satellite radio system that he brings along on all his trips. 

"We bought it in Detroit about seven years ago and I still take it on all the trips," Edwards said. "For the most part, if we're not listening to the NHL station, E.J. got me hooked on (radio hosts) 'Opie & Anthony' a few years ago. So that keeps me going, too, on those long drives."

Edwards admits that the full-time staff at NHL Central Scouting averages about seven games per week, which translates into approximately 28 games a month, 84 hours of scouting, 112 hours of driving between games and countless cups of coffee each month.

If time allots, and in addition to detailing the life of a scout and charting a few of the top prospects, Edwards also will take to the famous Tunnels of Moose Jaw, where it is said 1920s gangster Al Capone allegedly spent time with his fellow cohorts. These tunnels attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

Keep checking for updated blog posts and timely features on the "Life of a Scout" journey with Chris Edwards throughout the week.

Follow Mike Morreale during his Western Canadian tour with scout Chris Edwards on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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